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Mammograms Can Save Lives of Women in Their 40s: Study
Date:2/22/2012

By Kathleen Doheny
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 22 (HealthDay News) -- Breast cancers in women aged 40 to 49 that are diagnosed by mammograms have a better prognosis than those detected by doctors or the women themselves, a new study indicates.

"They have an earlier diagnosis, earlier stage, better prognosis," said study author Judith Malmgren, an affiliated professor of epidemiology at the University of Washington School of Public Health and Community Medicine. She is also president of HealthStat Consulting Inc. in Seattle.

The new study, like previous ones, re-ignites the ongoing debate about the best age to start routine mammograms and the best screening interval. It appears in the March issue of the journal Radiology.

In 2009, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force issued mammogram recommendations. It recommends women aged 50 to 74 who are at average risk for breast cancer have a mammogram done every two years. It also suggests that women aged 40 to 49 at average risk discuss the pros and cons with their doctors and decide on an individual basis if and when to start screening.

Meanwhile, other organizations, including the American Cancer Society, recommend women begin mammograms at age 40 and continue to have them annually.

Malmgren and her colleagues evaluated nearly 2,000 women who had breast cancer. All were aged 40 to 49 when they were treated between 1990 and 2008.

The researchers looked at the method of diagnosis, whether by mammogram or if the cancer was found by the doctor or the woman. They also took these into account: the cancer's stage at diagnosis; type of treatment; annual follow-up; recurrence; and survival.

Over the 18-year period, the number of breast cancers diagnosed at very early stages increased 66 percent, while the number of more advanced cancers (stage 3) decreased by 66 percent.

Those whose cancers were detected by mammogram rose from
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